Discover lush landscapes and vibrant cities
Soak up the rich history, culture and breathtaking Alpine scenery of Austria. Wind your way through picturesque mountain villages to St Anton and Villach for a spot of skiing, or pull up a chair in one of the famously ornate coffee shops in Vienna, a city that’s a treasure trove for lovers of classical music and good food.
Vienna’s "Golden Age" ended with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 and it’s as if the city were frozen in time that fateful year. To visit is to immerse yourself in a bygone era of glorious Habsburg palaces, grand platzes and Romanesque churches. But for a more informal taste of Viennese life, follow in the footsteps of Sigmund Freud and enjoy coffee and cream cakes in one of the city’s coffee bars – heart of the intellectual scene in the early 20th century. Oh, and don’t forget to take in an opera whilst you are there.
Austria’s beautiful second city sits either side of the River Salzach, surrounded by mountains. If you know Salzburg from ‘The Sound of Music’, the city’s exquisite charms are likely to exceed your expectations. Visit the baroque cathedral and the dominating Hohensalzburg Fortress or simply hit the shops. Salzburg is a gateway to ski resorts but, at any time of the year, this is not a city you’ll want to slope away from.
Twice host of the Winter Olympics, Innsbruck attracts skiers almost all-year-round, thanks to the nearby Stubai Glacier. It’s also the gateway to numerous winter ski resorts such as Igls, Axamer Lizum and St Anton. But, as one of Austria’s most beautiful cities, it has plenty else going for it. The capital of Tyrol has a thoroughly charming medieval Old Town, complete with narrow cobbled streets and colourful, architecturally diverse buildings. Surrounding the city and looming over everything are majestic mountains – the playground for hikers, climbers and adventurers, as well as skiers. Close to both the German and Italian borders, Innsbruck is also the perfect base for exploring the whole region.
Few ski resorts can rival St Anton in terms of pedigree. This stunning Tyrolean town was home to the world’s first ski school, and has been welcoming winter sports fans since way back in the 19th century. Tradition mingles effortlessly with a state-of-the-art infrastructure, and skiers of all abilities will be thrilled with the stunning scenery, magnificent runs and excellent après-ski.
Linz, Austria’s third largest city, straddles the River Danube just 20 miles (30km) south of the Czech border. The capital of Upper Austria, it was also the 2009 European Capital of Culture – a status that reflects its dramatic change from a heavily industrial city to one of the country’s greenest and most culturally diverse communities. Its music, media and arts scene has become world-renowned through the likes of the Bruckner Orchestra and the Ars Electronica Centre. And the daring, futuristic buildings that house such recognised institutions make a thrilling contrast to the baroque charm of the city’s main square. Mozart wrote his Linzer Symphony in this city – you’ll find plenty here to inspire you too.
Winter, summer, spring or autumn – Villach is a stimulating destination whenever you decide to visit. Close to both Italy and Slovenia, plugged in to the rest of Austria, it’s an exciting and easy-going place with a rich cultural life. Festivals, concerts and other events are always going on. And yet, when you want to get away from it all, you’re moments from pristine Alpine nature reserves, spectacular hiking trails and Europe’s purest lakes. Don’t forget to sample the thermal springs, renowned for their recuperative properties since Roman times.
Prices quoted are the lowest available Standard Class adult return fare.
© Toni Anzenberger, Picture Press Illustration, Calle Montes, Ken Scicluna - John Warburton Lee, Juergen Richter - Look, Mark-Edward-Smith-Tips.